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Retailers both large and small find big advantages to mobile payment systems

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- The way we pay for things is changing. Those credit-card keypads yielding paper receipts are giving way to a new group of mobile payment devices that merchants say charge cheaper swipe fees, and are faster and easier to use.

Recently, Starbucks signed on with Square, one of the more popular devices in the market. That means 7,000 Starbucks stores will process U.S. credit and debit card transactions with Square — thus linking the card reader with a major retailer.

An array of other devices are on the market, including Intuit GoPayment and PayPal Here. Others in the mobile payment mix include Groupon and Google. Several large retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and others, recently announced they're joining forces on their own upcoming mobile payment method.

Here's how these systems generally work: Commerce companies provide a free card reader to retailers, who plug it into the headphone jack of their mobile phone. After customers get their card swiped, they sign receipts with their finger, and have the option to leave tips. Receipts are sent by text or email. Merchants are charged a percentage per swipe, with the remaining money from the purchase deposited into their account.

Square's iPad version, called Square Register, allows sellers to keep inventory of sales. “I can also track what are my top sellers,” said Emma Merisier, who uses the iPad version on her Charlotte food truck, SouthernCakeQueen. “That can help me decide what cupcakes I'm baking for the following week.”

Wayne Parker, with Whispering Willow bath and beauty products, thinks using Square generates more business at fairs and markets. After one customer confirmed that his business takes credit cards, she spent more than US$100 in gifts. “It definitely has made a difference (in) the amount of business we've been able to do,” Parker said.

Larry Swayne, with Charlotte, North Carolina's Wingzza wings and pizza food truck, is sold on Intuit GoPayment's organization. He said Intuit approached him about trying its system, and he immediately took to the way it links with Intuit QuickBooks, the small-business accounting software. He has been using a more traditional reader system with paper receipts.

He said Intuit is faster and more convenient, and his customers like it, too. “Customers have become used to paying that way, so it's not that much of a new thing.”

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This undated photo shows a close-up view of a “Square” sticker next to traditional credit card icons in the store window of Jason Glunt's Salud Beer Shop in Charlotte, North Carolina's Historic Arts District, NoDa.

(MCT)

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